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Lessons learned from Lilly Pulitzer’s Marketing Mishaps

Lessons learned from Lilly Pulitzer’s Marketing Mishaps

Target PatternWhat do you get when you combine marketing mistakes and fat shaming? Outraged customers and a scrambling PR team. The fashionable ‘Queen of Prep’ Lilly Pulitzer might be rolling over in her grave as the popular floral-inspired clothing line hits the headlines once again. To recap the marketing blunder that happened in April, the collaborated efforts between Target & the Lilly Pulitzer fashion team offered a limited-time clothing collection to customers that boasted designer looks at discounted prices. While the deals seemed too good to be true, shoppers at Target chains around the country created a ‘Black Friday’ frenzy during the hyped up release but were left disappointed, frustrated and upset.

It’s not that shoppers weren’t happy about the affordable and stylish line of brightly colored apparel, but they were more outraged at Target’s mismanagement of the in-store inventory and the horrendous online shopping experience. Their online store experienced an exuberant amount of traffic that resulted in significantly slow load times, random lockouts and servers that couldn’t keep up with the demand. This left online shoppers screaming at their computers and venting on social media to express their dismay as the chic and popular clothing line quickly sold-out and began to appear on eBay.

As shoppers continued to scour stores and the internet for the coveted clothing, many are shaking their heads at Target for pulling such a sneaky and downright dirty marketing ploy that they couldn’t successfully pull off. And don’t think that Target doesn’t know because social media exploded with fuming tweets, statues and comments over the situation. But to make matters worse, some of the lucky ones who cleared the racks and filled their red carts (and digital ones) full of the Lilly Pulitzer line, quickly through up listing on eBay…for much higher prices.

Adding Insult to Injury

To sprinkle more salt into the wound, clothing sizes beyond 14 were not available in-stores but shoppers could have had a split second chance at snagging some on Target’s online store, where inventory featured plus sizes up to 3XL or 26W. However, amid the marketing chaos, that seemed to be losing steam, another problem arose and this time, the finger wasn’t pointed at Target.

“Just another day of fat, white and hideous…”

Lily Pullitzer Fat Shaming
(Photo Credit: Amy Lombard New York Magazine)

That was the caption under a photo of 2  fat-shaming cartoons taken at Lilly Pulitzer’s main office in King of Prussia, about 40 minutes North West of Philadelphia, PA. The picture was part of a 27 photo exposé in New York Magazine. With fat-shaming cartoons displayed like art work on cubicle walls at ‘The Pink Palace’ headquarters, a wave of dismay and anger has once again heated up social media, setting Lilly Pulitzer’s reputation on fire.  With an onslaught of online critics lashing out against the fashion company, their reputation is on the line, and only time will tell if they can keep their burning ship from sinking.

The lesson here is simple, don’t give the press unfettered access.  And if you are going to allow the press a look behind the curtain, it can’t hurt to do a onceover back there yourself to make sure everything looks as it should. After the failed marketing management from Target put a spotlight on the Lilly Pulitzer brand, one would think they would have stayed under the radar, but with the new fat-shaming cartoons quickly circulating the online world, reputation management is surely on the horizon.

While it’s uncertain how this little mishap will shake out for Lilly Pulitzer, it should be said that there can be a light at the end of the tunnel for even the most damaged of reputations. If you ever find your brand in a reputation crisis, let the marketing experts at WebiMax strategize an effective online marketing campaign that’ll maintain your brand’s positivity.

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